Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, 2 Kings 21:1-18, 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1, Matthew 8:28-34
Early followers of Christ lived in a culture where a temple or idol to one deity or another lurked around almost every corner. Even within the Christian church, Jews and Gentiles had backgrounds and beliefs which were not always in agreement. This created complicated social situations where believers had to balance being a loving neighbor (or business partner or customer) against upholding their principles.
In today’s reading from Corinthians, Paul writes about eating meat sacrificed to idols or demons – which would have been forbidden under Jewish law. Instead of declaring such actions sinful or not, he wrote: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” He advised them their actions should be chosen in accordance with their convictions, yet not to undermine their witness to the people around them. He didn’t want them leading anyone into behavior that other person thought was a sin.
We face similar challenges. Every day we are called to follow our principles even when they run contrary to social pressures, politics, employers, friends, family, foreign cultures, and fellow people of faith. In some situations, particularly matters of personal ethics, we may simultaneously be judged by some people as too pious while others see us as terrible sinners. If we remain loving, it doesn’t matter. Christ didn’t worry about being called a glutton or a drunkard, and John the Baptist was just fine being a holy freak. Isn’t it liberating to know our allegiance is never to public opinion, but to God, “for why is [our] freedom being judged by another’s conscience?”
We are not a people bound by laws and technicalities of action and thought (no matter how much some people might cling to that model). We are a people freed by love and meant to love freely. Our faith is in constant friction with the world. We are called to live our faith, but never to impose it. It is up to us to decide whether that friction is a source of irritation like sandpaper on skin, or a source of warmth like two hands rubbing together as if in prayer.
Comfort: You don’t need to worry about how other people judge you.
Challenge: Seek common ground rather than the upper hand.
Prayer: Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Amen. (Psalm 82:3-4)
Discussion: Where do you encounter the most friction between your faith and the world?
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